Yes, Me Too

A man’s personal experience with sexual assault.

First off let me say I am terrified. I don’t think I’ve ever been more afraid to write something as I am to write this. My fears are based on a whole host of reasons, but I want to first address my gender. Yes, I am a man. I go by male pronouns, I have a penis, and I was sexually assaulted.

I feel the need to start by saying that my goal here is not just to say, “See! Men have problems too!” I see a lot of female friends on social media who view the “Me Too” trend/hashtag/movement (seems too early to say which) as mainly a way for women to have their voices heard, and I am not trying to coopt that here. The risk of being sexually assaulted is far greater if you are a woman, and I am not here to start an “allgendersmatter” hashtag. Even though I myself am a victim, I recognize my male privilege is still there. As far as assaults go, mine was tame, and if I wasn’t male, it may have been much worse.

I remember reading a post on Facebook the other day. It talked about the phrase “Violence against women”. It said the phrase was too passive. It implies that it’s something that just happens. Like there’s no perpetrator, and that we’ll never really be able to stop it. Like “crime” or “the weather”, “violence against women” almost sounds as though it’s simply nature’s fault women are being assaulted. The writer suggested using phrases to address the problem along the lines of “male violence towards women” or simply “Male Aggression”. Phrases like that remind you where to actually place your efforts towards solving the problem. Men are far more often the aggressor in these scenarios. A man was the aggressor in mine.

It was summer, just a couple years ago. I was out at the bars, drunkenly running into people I knew from high school. It had been years, we were all drunk, so just seeing someone you knew the name and face of felt like an incredible happenstance. That’s when I met James. We used to do theater together and he always struck me as a good guy, so I was excited to see him. He used to mainly hang out with the more popular kids, so I never got to know him that well, but that night we were talking like old buds.

Since you already know the end of the story, you can assume he started trying to get me to leave with him. He name dropped a bunch of the girls I had crushes on in high school that he knew I knew he was friends with. He said they would be there, said he had a hot tub, and free booze. The only catch was I had to leave my roommate, Justice, behind because he didn’t want to have too many people over.

Writing all this out for the first time, it feels so obvious now. I feel so dumb. I almost feel like it was my fault.

I got Justice a ride, and I was sobering up, so we sorted out a plan where I would drive both James and I to his place so I could leave if I wanted to. One of the few decisions I made that make me feel a little less dumb.

We drove to his place. We got there and the house was empty, but it was large, and fairly luxurious. I asked when everyone else would show up. He said soon. We played pool. I forget who won, I think it was me because he started to act drunker and drunker, despite not drinking. In high spirits he asked for a hug. Fine by me! I love hugs! I’m also pretty damn good at them. It’s a point of pride for me.

I broke the embrace, and he asked for another. So I hugged him again. He asked for another. Hesitantly, I hugged him again. He asked for another. I asked why he would need another hug. He said the previous ones weren’t good enough. Fuck that! I thought, I’m the best damn hugger there is! and I went in for another one to prove it. This time he pulled me onto the couch.

“Okay,” I said as I pulled away and stood back up, “James, are you coming onto me?”

“No,” he replied, “I just like hugs.”

I wasn’t convinced. I tried to talk to him. I asked him about his sexuality. He said he was straight. I told him I was too. He asked if I wanted a massage because I was looking tense. I said no. He asked again. I went to play pool.

For about an hour he sat there on the couch watching me play pool. Every once in a while I’d ask when everyone else was getting there. Every time he said they were on their way. Then he’d ask for a hug. Every second I was there, dread rose a little more in my chest. I’m fairly strong, and a scrappy fighter. I knew I could take most people on, but if it came down to it between me and James, it wouldn’t be easy. He had military training. He worked for a security firm. He showed me a video of him arresting a full grown man by tackling him and wrestling him into submission.

I knew I was in danger. I said I had to get going. He said I should wait until everyone else got there. I told him I knew nobody else was coming. He said they were. I said I was leaving. He got up for the first time in a while and told me I had to give him a hug first. Out of fear, I complied. He grabbed my ass, and held it.

It’s okay, I told myself, you’re and actor. You’ve had to touch and be touched before. You’re okay! I said again and again in my head.

When he let go, I made my way up the stairs towards my car. I got all the way out the door when he yelled to me, “You can’t leave until I get one last hug!”

I turned to see him standing there, arms out stretched. Would he chase me? I thought, if he has a gun, would he shoot at me if I bolted?

I walked back to him and gave him a hug. He grabbed my ass and proceeded to feel me for what could have been anywhere from two minutes to ten, refusing to let go. Is he going to let me leave here? I really didn’t know. Is he going to rape me? Kill me? How would I even fight a man who’s bigger, stronger, and already has his arms around me? Finally, he let me go. I turned and walked directly to my car, receiving another smack on the ass as I went. I refused at least a few more requests for a hug and offers of a massage on my way to the car. I got in, and drove away.

I texted my friend Javier what happened.

“I’m so sorry to hear that happened to you man. I want you to know what he did was sexual assault. You can press charges.” he replied.

Sexual assault. I had been sexually assaulted. I was now a victim of sexual assault. Sexual assault. Sexual assault. Sexual assault.

I said it over and over again because it never sounded real. It still doesn’t. The whole night feels like a bad dream. Sometimes I almost feel like everything is fine until I realize I’m alone in a room with a man I don’t know, and now there’s tinge of fear there. I’m different now, because of James.

I never pressed charges. There was no physical evidence. Just his word against mine, and he worked with police. Seemed like a long shot to say the least. Also I didn’t want to talk about it. Just thinking about it makes my skin crawl. I feel weak and vulnerable. I didn’t want that to be my life for months on end while a court decided to give him, probably at most, a slap on the wrist.

Only now, years later, do I feel like talking about it. Not because it hurts me any less, but because we have to talk about these things. Seeing friend after friend come forward and say “Me too”, I had to say something as well.

This is a problem that happens to too many people. Just skim your Facebook wall for proof. Victims outnumber perpetrators, and in that we will find our power. It’s time to raise our voices. It’s time to demand action from our elected officials. Speak up not just for you, but for the person listening who can’t. Speak up for the person who’s hurting too much to speak up themselves, or is under duress.

I’m so afraid to publish this. I write this knowing full well friends and family will learn this about me for the first time. What will they think? Will they treat me differently? Will they not believe me or say I’m being overly dramatic? Will they find some way to say it’s my fault? That scares the ever loving shit out of me.

But I don’t care anymore.

It doesn’t matter if I’m afraid. I’m going to help put an end to sexual assault and male aggression through my actions, through my votes, and through my story. I hope you do the same.

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